Here’s a Twitter question from a reader, @LouisSmithSr, regarding Ravens fourth-year safety Matt Elam:
“With all the additions/changes on the back side of the defense, where does Elam fit in the equation? Or does he?”
This is a make-or-break year for Elam with the Ravens. That was going to be the case last year, before Elam lost his entire 2015 season to a torn biceps suffered during training camp.
Elam has recovered from that injury, but he has not proved it wasn’t a mistake for the Ravens to draft him in the first round (32nd overall) back in 2013. Now in the final year of his rookie contract, Elam faces plenty of competition as the Ravens try to settle on next season’s safety rotation.
We know that free agent acquisition Eric Weddle is the projected starting free safety. After that, roles are uncertain.
The Ravens released safety Will Hill in March after he violated the NFL’s substance policy for the fourth time. Lardarius Webb is making the switch from cornerback to safety, and while the Ravens believe Webb can handle the move, watching that transition is going to be interesting. Kendrick Lewis who started much of last season is also still on the roster at safety, along with Terrence Brooks, Anthony Levine, and Nick Perry.
So where does Elam fit? The Ravens know he struggles in pass coverage, but if he can tackle and pursue ball carries the way he did in college at Florida, Elam could still help the Ravens, probably in a backup role. Elam was a sure tackler in college, but that has not been the case in the NFL. He has also looked hesitant at times, probably due to a lack of confidence.
Elam has a year more experience than Brooks, and the Ravens saw enough in Elam to make him a first-round pick. But if Elam is going to be a factor for the Ravens next season, he will need his best offseason and training camp.